Answers to Your Questions About Toxic Free Living

The Challenge of Finding Product Information

Over the holiday I had reason to do some research on two products.

Both were products I had researched in the past. One was a product that I was considering purchasing for myself (the enameled pot I wrote about last week); the other was a product I was researching for a client.

The enameled pot was available as a brand name product and also as a “knock-off.” I had already researched the brand name possibilities, but not the knock-offs. Since this was a fairly pricey item, I really wanted to buy a knock-off but every time I looked at one, I just felt nervous and didn’t want to take a chance. Particularly since I would be using it for cooking food.

I knew the materials used in the brand name pots because I could call their customer service and get the information. But the knock-offs…you can’t even find out who to call. Store brands usually don’t manufacture their own goods and can’t answer questions. And so in the end I went with the brand name item and felt confident that I knew what the materials are.

That said, researching the other product for my client was a completely different experience. With this product it was very difficult to get any information calling the manufacturers. I really got the runaround. But I did persist and finally did get some of the information I was looking for. By contrast, when I contacted the smaller manufacturers who make this product, most of them responded immediately and were happy to talk with me in detail about their materials. One man had worked for the company for thirty years and we had a long talk. On the other hand, one brand had no manufacturer listing at all and I could even find a website for them.

My conclusion from this experience was:

  • MAJOR MANUFACTURERS may or may not know much about their product materials, but at least you can generally contact them and ask
  • KNOCKOFFS probably won’t know anything about their materials and you won’t be able to reach the actual manufacturer
  • SMALLER MANUFACTURERS generally know most about their materials and are happy to tell you

Transparency and disclosure is a big issue I am working on for 2017. As I’ve said before, every product should fully disclose all materials in a format that is easy for consumers to understand.

This is why last year I started Debra Lynn Dadd Recommended Products, to help business communicate with consumers about their materials. Through this program, I write a Materials Review for products, which lists the materials and also gives background information to help consumers make decisions about the products.

Until all products have this level of transparency and disclosure, stick with brand name products and small businesses, where you can actually talk with someone and ask your questions. If there is no brand name or contact information, don’t buy the product.

Buy from reputable companies that know their materials and are willing to communicate about them.

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A Safe Alternative Slow Cooker

After writing this post I found that I actually first suggested this in 2013.

One of the things I love about Larry is he is really good at coming up with “thinking-outside-the-box” solutions to toxic exposures.

For some years one of the most frequently asked questions is “What slow cooker can I use?” And I’ve always had to say “I don’t know of one that doesn’t have lead in the glaze on the pot.” The only exception to this is the Vita Clay cooker, with an unglazed pot, but this is a rice cooker, not a crock pot of any size].

As some of you know, Larry has been living in California with his parents for the last few years while recovering from an accident. And now he’s in the process of moving back here with me. 

While staying with his parents, he saw his father cooking on an induction cooktop. Because he and I both have a tendency to put food on to cook, set a timer and walk away and not hear the timer, he thought we should get one so it will just turn off at the right time and not burn. And that was reason enough for me to agree we should explore the possibility.

An induction cooktop is like a hotplate, but heats food with magnetic induction that directly heats the cooking vessel, so the pot can heat food rapidly. You can also set it to exact temperatures and cooking times, so it will turn off automatically, even if you forget to come and turn it off. It’s so precise, many chefs now use it. It’s easy to carry and can setup anywhere there is and electric plug. So it pretty much can function as a slow cooker.

Magnetic induction doesn’t release toxic pollutants into the air like the combustion by-products from gas. It of course would release some EMFs, but I couldn’t find any data on this. I imagine it wouldn’t be more than an ordinary crock pot and maybe even less.

My biggest concern was the pot. Magnetic induction doesn’t work with my Xtrema cermamic cookware because the cookware needs to be made of a material that is magnetic. You can test any cookware by putting a magnet on it—if it sticks, it will work for magnetic induction. Or look for the induction-ready symbol, or search online for “induction-ready cookware.”

We did some research and decided that the best cooking vessel for us to buy to use with the induction cooker was a cast iron pot with a porcelain enamel finish on the inside. I had already researched Le Creuset and was comfortable with the Le Creuset enamel finish so we bought a Le Creuset soup pot that happened to be on sale at Marshall’s, of all places.

We love this! And we haven’t burned anything since.

We got the NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop. But there are also other brands. We couldn’t find these in stores, but there are many styles on the Internet. We chose this one because it was the one Larry’s father uses and Larry wanted the same one.

NuWave also sells a full line of induction-compatible cookware that has a Duration “ceramic” finish. I called NuWave Customer Service at 1 855 742 2665 and asked what the Duration finish is made of. I found out that they actually have a number of different finishes on various cookware sets and they don’t know what any of them are made from.

I found Duralon online at what looks like the manufacturer’s website. They are in Australia, so they are not available as I am writing this. They have several Duralons made from nylon reinforced with glass or glass and minerals. That’s all I could find. Nylon in general is one of the safest plastics and can be used without melting at very high temperatures.

So while I can’t recommend NuWave’s induction cookware, I can say I’m very happy with my NuWave induction cooker

So this morning, after writing this yesterday, I got up early. I had been soaking beans overnight to cook this morning. Because Larry was still asleep and I myself hadn’t yet learned to use the induction cooker, I decided to just cook the beans “the old way” on the stovetop. Well, the beans boiled over and I had to relight the gas burner and I thought, “If I would just learn to use this induction cooktop, I could just set it to one temperature to bring it to a boil and then program it to other temperature to simmer the beans and then program it to turn off.” And that quite delighted me. I just now need to figure out those perfect cooking times and temperatures and I’ll be able to do that. It’s a whole different thinking process about cooking.

More on Slow Cookers

We’ve been discussing slow cookers on this blog for years.

Just this last week a reader posted a comment and said that recent tests had found some crock pot glazes to be free from lead!

And she sent me the link: TERMINAl VERBOSITY: The skinny on lead in crackpots—It may surprise you!

The anonymous blogger wrote (in 2009) “I don’t like ambiguity, especially when it comes to the health of my children. So I was alarmed when I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to the question: “Do modern-day crock pot glazes contain lead that can leach into my food?”

So she found the FDA guidelines, called manufacturers, and tested crock pots herself. And she found ZERO LEAD in the top five brands.

Here are some other interesting links from my reader regarding lead glazes in crock pots:



Regarding this second link my reader wrote, “The lady at Lead Safe America has sons who are lead-injured, so I find her work informative, as she knows firsthand what lead poisoning looks like. It seems to me that some of the crocks contain very low lead because it is inherent in the raw materials, not added in the glaze; I believe that is the point she makes. And this is the same argument made by the Earthpaste toothpaste company — that the lead in their toothpaste is natural in the raw materials. I see that the black Crockpot brand pot at the second link tested as completely lead-free.

Get an induction cooker and you can choose your cookware. And you can cook in all different sized pots and pans.

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More on Aerotoxic Syndrome

In July 2015 I interviewed a former flight attendant on Toxic Free Talk Radio regarding aerotoxic syndrome—a condition caused by toxic chemical exposure during airplane flights. TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO: Aerotoxic SyndromeL How Flying in Airplanes can Affect Your Health

This week, GreenMedInfo has a new investigative report on toxic exposures in the aviation industry.GREENMEDINFO: “Asbestos of the Sky”—The Aviation Industry’s Darkest Coverup

And here’s a documentary about aerotoxic syndrome: UNFILTERED BREATHED IN—The Truth about Aerotoxic Syndrome

And here’s an article about how pesticides are sprayed on passengers: NATURALHEALTH365: Government advises airlines to spray pesticides on passengers. If this title sounds alarming, check out this report that explains when and why pesticides are sprayed: Flyers Beware: Pesticide Use on International and US Domestic Aircraft and Flights

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Clothing Companies in India are Cleaning Up Their Act

This week The Washington Post published a piece about health and environmental effects of clothing production in India, and and how “A new crop of small businesses are investing in organic farming, natural dyes and a transparent supply chain that encourages shoppers to think about the effect of their purchases.”

Good news.

THE WASHINGTON POST: The dirty secret about your clothes

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Formaldehyde Emissions from Silicone and Other Materials

A reader posted a comment: ”At 392 degrees F silicone mats release trace amounts of formaldehyde. Higher the heat, higher the amounts of formaldehyde.”

Though I continually am searching for scientific data on the health effects of silicone, this was news to me.

But having the clue that silicone releases formaldehyde, I was able to find information on this.

In fact, Dow Corning issued a fact sheet Formaldehyde Generation from Silicone Materials

The Executive Summary says

Exposure of silicone products to high temperatures in air can give rise to formaldehyde. However, compared to some organic materials such as mineral oil, silicones release only a fraction (about 1%) of the formaldehyde, presenting a significant reduction in the potential exposure to this hazardous chemical.

They go on to refer to a study that shows the temperature at which formaldehyde is released from materials depends on the type of material being heated. It costs $50 to read this study, so I didn’t read it.

Dow Corning states that where there is prolonged heating of silicones or any other organic materials, “it is important to ensure that adequate ventilation is provided.”

This wasn’t very informative, but I continued to search and found Formaldehyde Generation from Silicone RubberI’m going to now give you a paragraph from this paper that explains how formaldehyde can be released from silicone. It is fairly technical, so I’ve edited it a bit and divided it into pieces to make it easier to read.

Silicone rubber is a polymer consisting of an inorganic siloxane (-Si-O-) backbone and two organic functional groups bonded to each silicon atom.

The organic groups are most often methyl, but may include vinyl, phenyl, hydrogen, hydroxyl and/or trifluoropropyl.

The type and quantity of organic functional group is varied to impart certain physical and/or chemical properties to the polymer.

Most industrial grade silicones contain methyl groups
with a few mole percent of vinyl groups. The methyl (-CH3) groups are largely responsible for formaldehyde generation during thermal oxidation.

Thermal oxidation of methyl groups begins at 149o C [300o F] with the formation of a peroxide on the methyl group followed by scission of the Si-C bond leaving a free radical on the silicon atom and a departing peroxide. The peroxide decomposes to a hydroxide ion and formaldehyde.

A portion of the formaldehyde can decompose to carbon monoxide, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and water. It is this portion of the mechanism that gives rise to the volatile organic products of the decomposition.

The hydroxide ion and the free radical silicon atom can react with each other, or with other methyl groups, eventually leading to the decomposition of the methyl groups and the formation of non-volatile silicon dioxide.

In addition to the volatile organic products listed, trace amounts of methanol and formic acid can also form during thermal oxidation.

Here are the VOCs generated during thermal oxidation of a typical silicone rubber containing only methyl function groups.

The rate at which thermal oxidation of silicone rubber generates formaldehyde depends on the oxygen content of the atmosphere and temperature. Formaldehyde generation occurs only where oxygen is present. Higher temperatures increase formaldehyde generation.

The paper goes on to state that silicone ribber is not the only material that generates formaldehyde during thermal oxidation. Dow Corning measured formaldehyde generation rates of various materials, summarized in the table below. 200 degrees C is about 400 degrees F. This would only be an issue in a situation like putting the material in an oven to bake it, or using it in an industrial application. These materials would not encounter 400 degree F heat in a home unless there was a fire (and then the health effects of smoke inhalation would be greater than any exposure to formaldehyde).

By contrast, Dow Corning measured a “high consistency silicone rubber” to generate formaldehyde at these rates:

< 5 µg CH2O/g-hr at < 197o C [386o F]
245 µg CH2O/g-hr at 225o C [437o F]
1418 – 4627 µg CH2O/g-hr near 250o C [482o F]

This is much less that other materials tested, however, none of the other materials are used at baking temperatures.

Another study Regarding the Evolution of Formaldehyde from Polydimethylsiloxanes states that OSHA’s hazard communication requirements apply to formaldehyde releases greater than 0.1 percent. GE Silicones elected to include formaldehyde warning statements on some of their silicone products that might be subject to conditions under which formaldehyde might be generated to this level.

Here are their results for silicone testing:

They concluded “there is very little formaldehyde evolved until about 200°C (392°F).” This may be where my reader got this number.

Once again I am prompted to say that the problem we have as consumers is we don’t know exactly what type of “silicone” is used in any “silicone” product.

But it’s highly unlikely that formaldehyde would be released from silicone cookware or baking mats if you were to use them for baking cakes or cookies at 350 degrees F. There would be zero formaldehyde release if you used silicone forms to make ice cream bars or popsicles.

We don’t even know if a silicone baking form or silicone baking mats are even the “methyl” type that releases formaldehyde. This research was done on industrial silicones used at high temperatures.

Given this information, I would say it would be prudent to not use silicone for baking above 300-350 degrees F. But it’s probably fine for most baking below 400 degrees F.

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Cotton organic towels

Question from Meryl

Hi Debra,

Thanks for a great site!

I am looking for organic cotton bath towels and bath mat in beige for my bathroom.

Do you have any new recommendations?

Thanks very much for any info!

Debra’s Answer

This was not difficult to find online.

I just typed “organic cotton bath towels beige” into Google and got a number of responses.

Even amazon has them:

Here are some other choices…

Plenty to choose from. Also more at Debra’s List: Bath Linens

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Hypoallergenic Cluster Fiber

Question from Jamila

Hi Debra,

doing some research, trying to find out what actually IS hypoallergenic cluster fiber used in mattress toppers…is it entirely free of chemicals that can out gas? how can a polyester fiber be hypoallergenic??

Debra’s Answer

Labeling says cluster fiber products are “100% polyester,” but that may be the primary material. Unknown chemicals may be present that are not accounted for.

Cluster fiber is a synthetic alternative to down.

It is “hypoallergenic” because it does not lead to allergic reactions caused by down and feathers.

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Nontoxic Mattress Pad for Bedridden Elderly?

Question from Karen

Hi Debra,

I am looking for a mattress pad that will help eliminate bed sores and ulcers for my bedridden husband. We tried a polyurethane product that was nearly $100 for a single bed. It emitted an odor that was unacceptable and we returned it. I have found some websites that are selling a latex based mattress pads but I can’t find any information about whether they are recommended for bedridden elderly people. Do you have any help for me?

Debra’s Answer

Ask the retailers who are selling the latex pads if they are suitable for your needs.

Readers, any experience with this?

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Dog Stink

Question from Miko

Hi Debra,

I have dogs and I hate their smell ,and it seems to be a constant struggle to keep them clean/ not stinking with their weekly bath; I use ONLY organic ,human shampoos and that only lasts a couple of days,smell-wise

any ideas about organic alternatives for their bathing? Enzymes ?

anything ,also organic,and non toxic ( the catch words ) to freshen up the air until the next weekly bath? diffusers? incences?

I have a giant and powerful airfilter,which helps with the dust and hairs,etc but the dogs still stink pretty badly


Debra’s Answer

I don’t have dogs, so readers, any suggestions?

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